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The Lion King – Signature Collection (Blu-ray Review)

The Disney Signature Collection has been focusing on getting some of their self inflicted out of print titles back out there on the market with some new bonus features and retaining most of the classic ones. Their fifth release in this line is the 1994 phenomenon known as The Lion King. Conveniently, its one of their next titles to get the modern “Live Action” update a la The Jungle Book, Maleficent, Beauty and the Beast and such. This new version will be trying out something a little different when it comes to the classic bonus material; it won’t be featured on the disc. You’ll have to access it by redeeming your digital copy and going that route to find it. The Lion King: Signature Collection will be available on Blu-ray August 29th.

Film 

This Disney animated feature follows the adventures of the young lion Simba, the heir of his father, Mufasa. Simba’s wicked uncle, Scar, plots to usurp Mufasa’s throne by luring father and son into a stampede of wildebeests. But Simba escapes, and only Mufasa is killed. Simba returns as an adult to take back his homeland from Scar with the help of his friends Timon and Pumbaa.

Back in 1994, The Lion King felt like quite the event. The opening scene/music number was played before most movies and it was insanely impressive and breathtaking. Staring with The Little Mermaid, it felt the Disney animation movement was building right toward this moment. Elton John was doing the songs with Tim Rice, it was the first one that was an original story and not an adaptation of something. The stars were aligning perfectly for it. And you really can make the argument that this was the peak, the apex of the Disney animation comeback/boom that would end years later with Home on the Range.

Looking back at it now, I guess I never realized how stacked the voice cast on this movie was compared to the rest of them that came before. Granted he’s a “who?” now, but Jonathan Taylor Thomas was a big deal back then. We all knew James Earl Jones. I mean just look at who all appears in this; Whoopi Goldberg, Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Cheech Marin, Jeremy Irons, Moira Kelly, Rowan Atkinson, not to mention contributions from voice action gods like Jim Cummings and Frank Welker.  Everyone is on their A-game too.

Revisiting it for the first time in forever, the film is still just as potent. Its really short too.  And I never realized just how quick this thing is at its end once Simba becomes an adult. Each part of the film is really touching, thoughtful and plenty emotion whereeve it is in the story. Its covered with some really fun and terrific songs, definitely switching gears into a musical mode, but never feeling overbearing or like there is too much music dominating or deluding special moments. And I forgot the characters sing the songs in this, not Elton John, so it did take me a little aback when it was the master singing.

The Lion King is 23 years old this year, and is still just as effective as it was back in 1994. Its one you can watch at different factions in your life and take away a different perspective. I’m still impressed with the animation on this film as well. Its pretty breathtaking and features an incredibly large scale. The songs that are featured in the film aren’t too shabby either. No matter your age, I think The Lion King still can offer you something.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: The Signature Collection version of The Lion King carries the same transfer used on the previous Diamond Edition of the film. And, I wouldn’t want them to NOT use that. That image is pretty much perfect. Its bright, crisp, smooth and full image that really shows fantastic detail, not just on the intended, but the brush and pencil markings on the art for the film.

Depth:  While this was done as a flat 2D hand-drawn animation, The Lion King really by source, impressively lends itself to a three dimensional look. Movements are smooth and no real jitter or blurring issues are present in this transfer.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep or just plain solid black when filled in or used on a character or surface. No crushing witnessed during the viewing for this review.

Color Reproduction: Colors used in the film feature a wide palette and appear just glorious here. From the dark outlinings of characters and objects to the gentle look of the filled in colors, this one really has quite a beautiful look in its appearance.

Flesh Tones: N/A

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics: Like the video, this 7.1 DTS-HD MA track used in the Signature Collection release is identical to the one on the Diamond Edition. And well, if it aint broke…cuz its really not. The only step up was Atmos, and they aren’t doing that at this time. instead this is a wonderfully fun, well thought out and realized track that gives good fun, focus and blend of the songs in the film, the vocals and the great sound design used. You’ll be flooded and immersed in the jungles and desert with the mix.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Plenty of boom here. The drums in the score really strike hard as does the stampedes, thunder, strong winds and more.

Surround Sound Presentation: These 7 channels really take on a life of their own. There are many fun moments found, like a storm and thunder that travels from the back left of the room up to the front right speakers. The baboon laughs from the back corner one time. Its a ton of fun and really keeps you on your toes.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is loud, crisp and clear in this mix. The singing meshes good with the speaking as well.

Extras 

The Lion King – Signature Collection comes with the DVD edition, an UltraViolet digital copy and a collectible film cell. The classic bonus features are only found when you redeem your digital copy.

Sing-Along Version

Audio Commentary

  • By Co-Directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff and Producer Don Hahn

Visualizing A Villain (HD, 2:53) – An artist does some sort of expressionistic painting of scar with dancers and stuff to Scar’s song in the movie.

The Recording Sessions (HD, 4:46) – The film’s directors give an introduction over the animation and recording process and then show VHS videos of the recording sessions with the main actors.

Inside The Story Room (HD, 23:42) – You have the ability to play each with Introduction By Co-Directors Roger Allers And Rob Minkoff. These are five pitch meetings of scenes that were taped back in pre-production of the movie.

  • Circle of Life
  • Simba & Nala
  • Simba Takes Nala Out To Play
  • Hakuna Matata
  • Rafiki and The Reflecting Pool

Nathan and Matthews: The Extended Lion King Conversation (HD, 7:08) – A 2011 sit down at a table conversation with the two actors as they talk about The Lion King. This is the uncut and extended version of that conversation.

Bloopers & Outtakes (HD, 3:44) 

The Morning Report: Extended Scene (HD, 2:30) – An animated version of a song/scene that was added for the stage production of the film.

Deleted & Alternate Scenes With Introduction By Co-Directors Roger Allers And Rob Minkoff (HD, 12:42)

Song Selection (HD 16:49) – Pick a song from the film, includes on-screen lyrics.

Classic Bonus Preview (HD, :50) – A trailer/reminder for the old bonus material from the Platinum and Diamond Editions which is available only digitally with your code.

Summary 

The Lion King returns to Blu-ray once again. Like all the Disney Signature line, if you already own this, please check the bonus and make sure they have featurettes you REALLY think are worth double dipped for. The audio and video are the same as before. These new extras, I feel, give a more inside baseball look at the film. In a new move, Disney has decided to include the classic bonus materials only with your digital copy redemption. Another reason why holding onto the previous edition may be even more important. If you don’t own The Lion King on Blu-ray, grab this, if you already do I’d say stay put.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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